For my first trip to the United Arab Emirates, I decided to take the plunge and try out Virgin Australia’s Business Class service through to Abu Dhabi. Modern and sexy – in tune to the brand – I had heard rumours of an actual bar aboard the business class cabin, flat beds and personal pyjamas and couldn’t wait to hit the sky – sipping champagne in sleep threads. With Mr. Takanami on my arm, we kissed our kids goodbye and set off for our adult’s only flight (the only way business class should be, no?).
Route: Sydney to Abu Dhabi
Aircraft: Virgin Australia 777-300ER
Flight Time: Fourteen hours, 5 minutes
Our flight was a connection from Adelaide, and upon setting down in Sydney for the transfer we moved swiftly to the clearly signed transfer lounge and awaited the shuttle to move us between terminals. Our boarding passes had been printed ahead of time in Adelaide, so the whole transfer process was smooth and fast – we were sipping champagne in the shared Air New Zealand lounge in a flash.
The Lounge: Air New Zealand Sydney International Terminal
A spacious, modern lounge with great selection of food on the buffet and a fully stocked self-service bar. Free Wi-Fi, magazines, newspapers, work stations and all the necessary frills expected in an international lounge were not missing here.
Punctuality: On time.
Seat and cabin layout:
There were four rows of seats in the main, business class cabin, with a 2 x 3 x 2 seat configuration of flat beds and great leg room.
The cabin seemed a little aged and could do with a bit of refreshing, but the flat beds were comfortable enough and both Mr. T and I got sound sleep time in when I would usually be tossing and turning up in the sky.
The break down for the tech-savvy:
-1.88 metre long fully horizontal flat bed
-1.95 metres of legroom
-58.4cm seat width
-Privacy screen between seats
-Laptop power, USB slot and reading light
-30.7cm in-flight entertainment screen
Baggage allowance: Checked baggage allows up to two bags totalling 32 kilograms, and 2 pieces of carry on (ie small bag or briefcase) with a total weight of 7 kilograms.
Impressive. Virgin Australia’s entertainment system RED is packed with movies, TV shows, music and games, built into a pull-out display unit housed in your arm rest. I personally prefer the arm rest display unit especially when you have a flat-bed as you can move the screen closer to you and adjust it’s positioning when you sit up for meals. The noise cancellation headphones were great, and my only gripe was that my unit kept freezing and the crew had to reset it three times before I could actually start watching a movie.
While the product was not perfect by all means – if anything it was in need of a luxurious upgrade – the crew are what really make any Virgin Australia flight fantastic. Their flawless appearance is matched only by their impeccable friendly and professional service, always offering a smile and occasion for a shared giggle with the passengers. Each crew member injects his or her own personal flair to their service, and you really come to love your hosts – real people who are not robotic in their manners.
Food and beverages:
Lanson Gold Label Brut 2002 Vintage Reims (France) upon boarding was a pleasant change considering Virgin’s domestic flights lack champagne offerings.
The meal service – created by famed executive chef Luke Mangan - began with generous individual garlic bread baguettes, followed by a selection of starters where I chose the capsicum and chickpea soup with gremolata. My main was a real treat, a chermoula crusted snapper with Moroccan eggplant salad, lime couscous and coriander, which I paired with a lovely glass of fruity Dandelion Vineyards 2011 Pinot Grigio (South Australia).
The meal, while large, was a healthy option and subsequently I felt energetically charged and ready for another glass of vino, this time the Mount View Estate ‘V’ Series 2010 Chardonnay (Hunter Valley), which I partnered with a selection of cheeses including a delightful blue from Gippsland, Victoria, called ‘Old Telegraph Road baw baw blue’.
I was almost maxed out for dessert, but the options were devilishly tantalizing and I had to poke a spoon into the fig and brown sugar bread and butter pudding with ginger poached rhubarb and crème anglaise – divine.
By now Mr. Takanami and I were well and truly relaxed, but our curiosity about the on-board bar saw us tip-toeing past sleeping passengers to the back of the business class cabin, where we discovered a neat little purple-lit bar space. It took a good five minutes before we were served by one of our cabin hosts, and as the bar is pushed against the back of the cabin there is no actual entry space meaning my dreamt-up images of a cute hostie shaking cocktails at 30,000 feet were quickly squashed. None of the other passengers made a visit to the bar, and I felt the whole experience was a bit of an anti-climax, particularly as most of the bottles had fallen over during the flight and the bar itself was subsequently wet with spilled drinks. Nevertheless my gin and tonic with fresh lemon made for a great night cap.
Prior to descent a supper service was available to those passengers who elected to be woken by the crew. Not one to miss any kind of meal, I popped up like a curios otter and scoffed a bowl of barramundi and prawn udon noodle soup and another plate of selected cheeses.
Pajamas and amenity kit:
The lightweight Virgin PJs were supplied in a cute little tote bag along with both male and female amenity kits filled with deluxe organic cosmetics from Australian brand Grown. While I popped off to slip into my not-so-flattering but very comfortable pants and top, the crew kindly prepared by flat bed with a top sheet and light doona ready for instant snuggling. Mt. T still wears his PJs to bed at home...
Virgin Australia flies to Abu Dhabi ex Sydney three times a week at 3:15pm, Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday, and codeshares with Etihad Airways.
A slightly ageing product concept luckily outshone by exceptional staff and service, the Virgin Australia 777-300ER Business Class cabin could do with a bit of a facelift of the whole cabin and seats along with a re-design of the bar area. The extensive leg-room and the fully flat bed allowed for a comfortable long-haul flight. High-class elements like the well-appointed food and wine menu created illusions of fine dining in the sky, together with the exceptional crew whose immaculate image and professionalism were maintained right to the end of the 14+ hour flight. Job well done, and yes we will be back to fly the long-haul with the Virgin business class team again.
To make a booking or search for flight availability, visit the Virgin Australia website: http://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/
-The writer flew courtesy of Virgin Australia.
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